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Media Woes Continue in Nepal

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Nepali journalists, media workers and institutions continue to be harassed and threatened within a growing culture of impunity, says a visiting international mission.

The following is the mission statement of the 16-member International press freedom mission to Nepal, which began on January 13:

At a press conference today in Kathmandu marking the end of the fourth International Press Freedom and Freedom of Expression Mission to Nepal, the mission members welcomed the progress on reforming the media environment since April 2006, whilst noting that much remains to be done and support must be made available for the continued development of the media. Moreover, the International Mission raised serious concerns about press freedom violations taking place throughout the country, particularly as impartial and independent media coverage will be essential for holding free and fair elections and promoting the democratic process.

Press Freedom Violations
Journalists, media workers and media institutions continue to be harassed and threatened within a growing culture of impunity. The Federation of Nepali Journalists has recorded 652 incidents of press freedom violations between April 2006 and December 2007. The International Mission condemns the murders of Birendra Sah and Pushkar Bahadur Shrestha, and the disappearance of Prakash Singh Thakuri, and calls for the prompt and thorough investigation of these cases by the judicial authorities with full assistance of all relevant individuals and groups, in order to bring those responsible to justice. In particular, the Mission urges the Maoist leadership to form a committee of investigation into the disappearance of Prakash Singh Thakuri, as was done in the case of Birendra Sah. The International Mission stressed the crucial importance of the trials of those accused in these cases being fair and transparent.

Constituent Assembly Elections
The International Mission spoke with government ministers, political party leaders, community leaders and the security forces about the importance of the elections proceeding as scheduled and supporting an independent and unobstructed media to ensure a free and fair vote. Attacks, threats and interference in the media are unacceptable and deny the public’s right to access independent and diverse information. The Mission calls for the government and political parties to undertake and publicise measures to ensure the safety of journalists and media workers. The Mission will send a short-term observation team during the elections to focus on the media situation.

The International Mission urges the national and local media to provide independent and impartial coverage of the elections, avoiding biased content. In this regard, the Mission calls on the media to abide by professional standards in accordance with international principles, and to engage in an open and constructive dialogue with the Election Commission and other relevant groups for delivering fair and impartial content.

The International Mission is very concerned about reported cases of hate speech and violence-promoting content, and strongly appeals to all media throughout the country to work professionally, in a manner conducive to ensuring lasting peace.

Legal Reform
The International Mission welcomes the amendment of the Working Journalists Act and the enactment of the Right to Information Act, noting the need to ensure their prompt and proper implementation.

The International Mission also stressed the need for strong constitutional protection of freedom of expression and press freedom, as well as the reform of the broadcast law and transformation of the state media into public service media, offering diverse programming serving the needs of all in society. The Mission calls for the recommendations of the High Level Media Advisory Commission to be implemented, bringing clarity to the management of broadcasting frequencies, creating a three-tier (commercial, community and public) broadcasting system, administration of licenses, allocation of public advertising and governance of public service media. An enabling environment should also be created for internet-based media.

Journalists’ and Media Workers’ Rights
The International Mission requests media institutions to provide journalists and media workers with fair and decent working conditions, as well as calls for negotiations between trade unions, media management and media workers to be held in a constructive manner. The expression of workers’ demands should not unnecessarily interfere with the public’s right to information.

Inclusion of Marginalised Groups
The International Mission calls upon media managers to ensure women are provided equal opportunities for employment, pay and promotion. The Mission also asks media institutions to ensure staffing at all levels representing diversity, including marginalised groups such as Dalits, indigenous nationalities, Madhesi and religious minorities.

Follow-Up to the Mission
The International Mission will be releasing a full report in the coming weeks, including a list of recommendations for media development as discussed with the various stakeholders in Nepal. Together with the national media actors, the International Mission will work towards the creation of a comprehensive coordinated ’roadmap’ for media development. Organisations represented on the Mission are ready to provide support to the Nepali stakeholders as requested in their efforts to ensure press freedom and media development and will call upon other media support organisations to join.

Information about the Mission
The International Mission met with government ministers, political party leaders, community leaders, the election commission, police, armed forces, civil society, international community and a broad cross-section of the media in Kathmandu. The Mission also visited the Bara and Parsa Districts (where Birendra Sah and Pushkar Bahadur Shrestha were murdered) and Kanchanpur District (from where Prakash Singh Thakuri disappeared). Prior International Missions to Nepal occurred in July 2005, March 2006 and September 2006.

The International Mission incorporates a dozen international organisations, including UN agencies, global media associations, freedom of expression advocates and media development organisations. Those organisations participating in the January 2008 mission included ARTICLE 19, Hirondelle Foundation, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), International Media Support (IMS), International Press Institute (IPI), Internews, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Open Society Institute (OSI), UNESCO, World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) and World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC).

The International Mission thanks the Federation of Nepali Journalists and other national organisations involved in preparing and hosting the visit, acknowledging the crucial importance of close cooperation with national actors and ensuring a nationally driven process.

For more information contact any of the participating international organisations or IMS at:
Jesper Højberg, IMS Executive Director,, +45 25 31 00 15
Binod Bhattarai, IMS South Asia Consultant, +977 9851 025230

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Brihát Śhānti Sámjhautā, 2006
(Comprehensive Peace Agreement)

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